The Columbian Theatre
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History of The Columbian Theatre
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1893-1917
. 1917-1927 . 1989
. 1927-1951 . 1994
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. The Columbian is Born: The Chicago World's Fair
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. World's Columbian Exposition .

By whatever name, the building at 521 Lincoln in Wamego, Kansas is a historic landmark. Built in 1895 by J.C. Rogers, a local banker and merchant, the building was designed to accommodate his mercantile business on the ground floor and a typical 1890s music hall on the upper level. Rogers was inspired by the Chicago World's Fair, also known as the 1893 Columbian Exposition. When the Fair closed, Rogers returned to Chicago and purchased architectural ornaments, works of art, Fair artifacts and even complete buildings. Very soon these items began arriving in Wamego by train.

Initially, the upper level, which included a stage adorned with pediments and pillars from the Fair, was known as the Rogers Music Hall. In 1898 Rogers added the words "The Columbian" above the stage. The chief attraction, however, were the six enormous oil paintings that had been the centerpiece of the U.S. Pavilion at the Fair.
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Besides the oil paintings located in the theatre, other architectural elements from the World's Fair were used throughout the building. The seven iron pillars on the main floor came from the Indiana pavilion and the original second story windows were features of the Brazil exhibition hall. The original stone urns atop the building were from the Victoria (Canada) building and the large eagle that crowned the parapet came from the U.S. Government building. An 1895 news account stated, "This week a car load of glass and other 'Fixings' to be used on the Rogers building was unloaded. Among the many articles was the largest eagle ever seen in this city. It measures thirteen feet from tip to tip and is made of tin."



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